A Gospel for Everyone

A Gospel for Everyone

Let us pray for the reading of God’s word. Father, as we come in this worship service now to this time of your word, to hear it read, to hear it preached, Lord, we need you to act. We ask that you would soften our hearts, that you would unstop our ears, that we would truly hear your word. Father, that by the power of your spirit, you would work it into our hearts and lives as we have need. Father, we pray that in it and through it, the glory of your son, our savior, would be revealed. And Father, we pray that you would continue to be faithful to your promise, that you would work in us to completion that which you have begun. Father, we need you to be at work, that we might be attentive to your word, that you would allow us to put aside all those distractions of this past week and that to come. And that we might hear you and in worship, rejoice in your word. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen. The honor of kicking off our next series in Romans. This morning, we’ll be looking at Romans 1:1-17, I have a large portion of that printed in your bulletin.

If you want to follow along in a few Bible, it’s on page 939. This is Romans 1. The This is the word of the Lord. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his son, who was descended from David according to the flesh, and was declared to be the son of God in power, according to the spirit of Holiness, by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom we have received grace and to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is claimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his son, that without ceasing, I mention you always in my prayer, asking that somehow by God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

For I long to see you, that I might impart some spiritual gift to strengthen you. That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Verse For I’m not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jews first and also to the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, for as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith. The word of the Lord. Thank you, dear God. Amen. Let me see that. We pray for the preaching of God’s word. Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But if my words should stray from yours, may they be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen. In the classic tale of Robin hood, Robin and his merry men long for the return of the king. When finally the black night declares that the king has indeed returned, the black night then further invites Robin to Nottingham to meet King Richard. Robin is initially unsure, fearing the usual trap.

However, when the Black Knight produces a scroll with the King’s own seal, Robin rejoices, falls to his knees and declares, Now that he has come to take sovereignty over us, we may hope for justice, even in Nottingham town. With two quick blasts of his horn, the Greenwood men arrive and the glorious news of the returning king quickly spreads. Some news is just too good to stifle, like the ringing of bells on victory in Europe Day or the sparkle of an engagement ring where for at least a couple of weeks, every conversation begins with an outstretched left hand. For Paul, the author of Romans, an opportunity to tell of the glorious work of his savior, King Jesus. Paul does just that in Romans, which is his longest and most theologically precise, doctrularly rich work. In our series, we may be moving rather quickly through these first four chapters of Romans as Pastor Lloyd preached on them roughly five years ago, and then we’ll settle into perhaps a bit more slow, a slower pace from chapter 5 on. I won’t spend a lot of time introducing Paul, apart from how he introduces himself this morning, as we’ll continue to get to know him deeper throughout his work.

But it is worth noting that in this greeting section, the first seven verses of our text, it’s his longest greeting of any of his letters. Paul does not first assert his apostolic authority, as he does in almost all of his other letters. Here, he first declares himself a servant or a slave. The purpose of this, New Testament scholar John Murray explains, is to avow at the onset the completeness of his commission by and commitment to Christ Jesus as Lord. Paul’s use of this phrase, a servant of, ought to recall to his audience the many times that has appeared in the Old Testament, where Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Zechariah, Amos, and a host of others are all called and call themselves a servant of the Lord. Testament scholar Douglas Mou notes, however, that Paul changed it slightly. And he calls himself a servant of Christ Jesus, drawing particular attention to the Messiah Jesus and his universal significance. There is a humility that Paul is showing to the church in Rome, a body of believers in a church that he didn’t plant or start, nor has he visited yet. Paul is addressing the church in Rome as a fellow servant of Christ.

He does next then mention his apostolic authority, but as he does so, he mentions that he was, one, called as an apostle and then to set apart for a ministry. He’s called by someone else. This is not an office he assumed for himself, and nor is his ministry function something he just decided to do. Paul’s language is decidedly one of commissioning, where he is a simple servant carrying out his master’s will with his master’s authority. The gospel that Paul has been set apart for is not a new gospel. Paul immediately shows us that by making the continuation or rather the completion from that which is promised beforehand in the Old Testament. You can see that in verses 2 and 3 that Paul connects the gospel back to the Older Testament. But notice that also, even though Paul is introducing his commission to preach the gospel, what he’s also doing is introducing Jesus. One can’t separate the gospel from Jesus. The foretelling of his coming was good news. The lineage from King David is good news. His incarnate birth in the flesh is good news. His resurrection from the dead in power was good news. These are all significant aspects of the gospel.

The good news of who Jesus was, is, ever shall be, and what he has done for us. In our text in verse 3 and verse 4, there’s a topic of much discussion among scholars asking, how far can you go in looking at the parallel and contrasting languages of verses 3 and 4? F. F. Bruce sees that those two verses are likely taken from an early confessional summary, perhaps one that the Roman Church actually held. In these verses, we’re given a glimpse of the rich theological diet that we’ll continue to feast on throughout our whole series in Romans. Verse 3, you see that Jesus is the Son of Man. He’s descend from the line of David. He is born in the flesh. In other words, Jesus is fully man. In verse 4, he’s declared a Son of God in power. In verse 4, it points using the Greek here, it’s pointing both backwards and forwards, back past the prophecys of verse 2 to a time before time when Jesus was then still the Son of God and forward at the mention of the resurrection to that position of power that Jesus has gained and will maintain.

This declaration of power as the Son of God, the spirit of Holiness, and the resurrection from the dead, that all culminates in Jesus being named Jesus Christ, our Lord. Paul, in declaring Jesus as Lord, as such as declaring that each of us owe him obedience. We have perhaps become a little too familiar in the American church with the title of Lord, but it carries with it a picture of of power, and authority. Paul is a servant of this King Jesus, and he’s determined to obey the calling and the commission of his master. Verse 5 shows us the nature of this King, and we are reminded at the onset of his generous and gracious nature. The gifts that Jesus has given to Paul, the gifts of his grace, the apostolic office, they’re for the purpose of encouraging others, in this case, at least in the primary case, the church in Rome, encouraging them to obedience of faith. The obedience of faith is another curious expression. John Murray sees faith as an act of obedience, and others see that our obedience is often accomplished in faith. Douglas Mou, I think rightly declares, Obedience always involves faith, and faith always involves obedience.

Verse 6, Paul mentions that this call to the obedience of faith is not just for him as an apostle, but to all called to belong to Jesus Christ, or as verse 7 says, to those who are loved by God and called to be saints. It is our task, just like Paul’s original audience to those in Rome that he was writing to in verse 5, it’s for the sake of his name among the nations. Paul is here, I think, hinting at his writing’s purpose, which we’ll get to in verses 16 and 17. But as he does so, he also shares with his audience in Rome, and to us as well, the incredible truth that we are loved by God and called to be his saints. I appreciate Douglas Mou on this passage. He writes, Saints and beloved loved, these two descriptions remind us that who we are depends on God’s love and call. In a world full of individual searching for meaning, purpose, and identity, God has truly given us a gift in his love and calling. We are called as saints. That is, call the saints to the obedience of sanctified living. But the focus of this passage is not on our behavior, but on our status.

We are first and foremost loved by God, loved by our King. And because Jesus is King, our response to the power of gospel for salvation includes a surrender to his gracious rule. I hope that you’ll see this is good news worth sharing, worth proclaiming the Jesus is King. This must be claimed by us. That’s the main message of verses 8 through 15. Paul transitions from that initial greeting and salutation, introduction, where the feel of the text is that of the communication of facts about Paul standing as a servant, his mission to proclaim the gospel, and more importantly, facts about Jesus Christ as Lord, the King prophesied of old, now come to Earth, now risen in power. But here in verses 8 through 15, the tone changes. This section is, to quote one, a full of verbs expressing emotion and desire, end quote. Truly, Paul is determined to communicate to the church in Rome of his zeal for them and of his love for the gospel. In verse 8, he thanks God for all of them. First, he God for all, particularly because their faith is being claimed throughout the world. This is high praise indeed to be known throughout the world for one’s faith.

Paul makes a similar comment, praise in 1 Thessalonians 1:8. There, like here, he’s possibly referring to Psalm 19:4, where you can read, Their voices have gone out to the earth, their words to the end of the world. And throughout this section, you’ll see there’s a lot of unity here in our English translation, the you and the yours. They’re all plural. There’s a highlighting of the word all. The whole of the Christian church in Rome seems to be in harmony here at this point, and that carries through this text. Christopher Asch sees this as fundamental to Paul’s letter to the Romans. And he sees the principle theme the truth that, God is glorified in a united church, zealous in their mission. What words of praise that would be, and that is, to be a united church, zealous in its mission. Proclaiming, serving, praying without seizing, always in my prayer, asking that somehow by God’s will, you can hear that language full of emotion that Paul writes about. He is genuinely desirous. Verse 11, I long to see you. And his desire, the reason for his longing is to serve his brothers and sisters in Christ as they serve the Lord.

Paul is coming with apostolic authority, and as we see, we’ll see throughout this series with deep doctrinal truths. But he’s also coming to be, as our text says, mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. This is a beautiful picture of the reality that the gospel treats us all as equals, reaching down and saving both the zealous pharisy and simple slaves and soldiers. Paul is interested not in boasting about his pedigree here, but in sharing one another’s faith. I appreciate Ash, who wrote, When we boast, we divide. When we speak of our own works, we puff up. But when we speak of faith, we proclaim the goodness of Jesus. It is the goodness of Jesus that Paul will repeatedly show throughout Romans. It will show Jesus’s goodness in contrast to our wickedness in the next couple of chapters. It is goodness and his grace to both the Jews and the Gentiles alike, and the goodness and his grace that enables us to live and to communicate the glory, the goodness of that gospel to the world around us in a multiple of situations. And that is Paul’s zeal for ministry. In verse 14, Paul describes it as being, quote, under obligation to take this message to both the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish, those whom the world calls to be fooled.

Paul feels keenly his calling to preach the gospel. He has already declared that he was set apart for this very reason, verse one. We see similar language in Ephesians 3:8, where Paul mentions that although he is among the least, grace was given to him to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 9:16, Paul writes, Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel, reminding the hearer, perhaps, of the prophets who would speak of the word of the Lord as a fire in their belly. Paul’s sense of obligation is profound. But this duty is not drudgery. He’s not complaining like I sometimes had, having to wash the dishes or do my homework before I can play. Rather, Paul is delighting in his to this, his new master, his new king. I’m reminded again of Robin and his merry men, celebrating with the Black Knight who brought the news of a newly returned king. In the midst of their games, the Black Knight’s visor is lifted, revealing to Robin the face of Richard the Lionheart, the King himself returned. Robin immediately drops to his knees along with all the woodsmen, and he calls calls out, My Lord King, I crave mercy for my men and for myself.

‘ The King towered amongst them. Swear, cried he in a loud, clear voice, Swear that you will forsake your wild ways and come with your men into my court. Robin answered, ‘gratefuly, ‘we will come into your court and into your service, sire, nor ask Anything better in this world than that. With profound joy, a good and gracious king is served. And Paul has found in his Lord Jesus the best of names. So eager is he to preach in verse 15, the gospel to them, because Paul knows that not only will there be a chance for mutual encouragement among the Christians in Rome, but even more importantly, Paul knows that the gospel must be preached because that’s how Jesus saves. Paul declares this in verse 16, first remarking that he is not ashamed of that gospel. John Murray notes that while we may be surprised at Paul’s negative way of expressing his estimate of the gospel, he says, When we consider the general contempt for the gospel in the world around and the fact that Rome is the center or the seat of worldly power, we can, Discover the significance of this negative expression and the undertone of assurance which the disavowal reflects.

Further writes, This emotion of shame betrays unbelief in the truth of the gospel. An absence of shame is proof of faith. So Paul approaches the gospel and his role not with shame, but with humility. As a servant, precisely because, as verse 16 reminds us, it is the power of God, not of Paul, not of his apostolic authority or of his passion or persuasion, but it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. This is the power of the gospel. I put this in your bulletin. Christopher Asch writes, Only the gospel humbles men and women to the ground. So that human pride ceases to make divisions and the church ceases to be a club, but reaches out from the ground, as it were, to fellow sinners in love. Many scholars see the next two verses, verses 16 and 17, as the central verses or main theme of Romans, that Paul will throughout the rest of the book show how the gospel is the power of God, how it brings salvation to those who believe, and how it reveals the righteousness of God in a variety of contexts. The righteousness of God was something that Luther struggled with for many years.

When he would hear the phrase God’s righteousness, what he would actually experience and see was his own utter inability to ever please God. So what he would see, what was generally revealed was God’s wrath, which our next section in Romans we’ll deal with. But eventually, God captured Martin Luther’s heart with a better understanding of God’s righteousness, that it, his righteousness, is actually the basis by which sinners can be justified. It is because of the goodness of our savior, King Jesus. F. F. Bruce explaining, he says, It’s best to understand this concept. We must remember that in the Hebrew thought, right or wrong are seen forensically or legally as if they were settled by a judge. It’s fitting since Pastor Lloyd remarked about the experience he observed in the courtroom on Tuesday, where the little child did nothing and the judge declared, You are a son and your name is Benjamin. There was nothing that he had done. In other words, when you look at the Greek here, or rather the Hebrew, this idea of right and wrong is not so much a moral quality, but a legal status. It’s not that they’re not a moral quality, but they are a legal status.

You can see that in the Hebrew word for righteous, it means in the right, and the Hebrew word for wicked literally means in wrong. God is himself righteous, and men and women are righteous also when they are in the right relationship with God and with his law. The problem, which Paul will go into great lengths in the next couple of chapters to show, is that mankind in general, and every man and woman in particular, are very much in the wrong. But here’s where Paul gets so excited. God has provided a way. He is righteous in himself, pure, holy, perfect, good, fair, consistent. His righteousness is also an activity of his nature. Where he reaches out and rescues or saves people. It is an expression of his power to save, like verse 16 says, and that finally his righteousness is freely given by grace to all who would believe. This is the doctrine of justification, where God legally declares us righteous because of the saving work of his righteous son, Jesus. It takes faith to believe that God would give us this undes deserved gift of a right standing with him. That can only be received as a gracious gift alone from a good king and by faith alone.

In this work, Paul is inviting us all to consider that because Jesus is king, our response to the power of the gospel for salvation will include a surrender to his gracious rule and a desire to spread the good news of our great King Jesus. Let’s pray. Father, we do thank you for your word. We thank you for the joy that you gave Paul, the eagerness, the zeal to proclaim the gospel, to the church, to his brothers and sisters in Rome. Father, as we work through this work, I pray that you would work it out in our lives, that this book would be for us food for our souls, that you would use us to shape us, to mold us, and to make us into the image of your son, Jesus Christ. Father, you are faithful to your promise, and we give you all thanks and praise in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen.

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.